Created by Lindsay Hardy and Hugo Butler
In World for Ransom, a rough-and-tough little B-noir from 1954, MIKE CALLAHAN is an Irish war vet working as a P.I. in Singapore who goes to work for an ex-lover who thinks her husband’s up to something shady.
Sure enough, good ol’ Mike (played by twitchy, dapper noir icon Dan Duryea who at one point sports a gleaming white suit) soon finds enough murder, espionage, shoot outs, action scenes (hand grenades!), lust, secrets both personal and nuclear, kidnapping, betrayal and black market shenanigans to fill out the eighty-two minutes of this solid little programmer, directed by Robert Aldrich.
But what makes this film a real curiosity is that it was made by the same people that were producing the China Smith syndicated TV show, and starred many of the same actors, including Duryea himself. Oh, the character names were changed, but the characters themselves, the sets, the setting and even Duryea’s hat were essentially the same. The cheapie budget was also familiar—the whole thing was allegedly shot in ten days on a budget of $90,000.
The big difference?
Thanks to Aldrich (and cinematographer Joseph Biroc who had also worked on the TV show), the film was darker, edgier and more nuanced. Aldrich later claimed that World for Ransom was “first embedded what I wanted to say in films. It was mainly about two men with good and bad points. Both men believed in individual liberty but the belief of one man was weaker than the other because he had no respect for humanity.”
- “Nothing gives it distinction, save possibly the people in its cast … Robert Aldrich produced and directed. He was trying. Some day he may learn how.”
— Bosley Crowther (The New York Times)
- “Boy’s Own material on the surface, maybe, but on the level of characterisation a compelling exploration of partnerships, brotherly bonds, and the fallibility of trust.”
— Time Out
- “… a taut, exciting, and ultimately grim little film noir… Stylistically, Aldrich’s visuals are superbly crafted, with the emphasis on enclosure. The camera set-ups and editing serve to trap the characters in their scenes, refusing to give them room to maneuver. Another fascinating, skillful film from Aldrich, a master of film noir.”
- WORLD FOR RANSOM | Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray | Watch it now
(1954, Monogram/Plaza Productions)
Screenplay by Lindsay Hardy and Hugo Butler (uncredited)
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Produced by Robert Aldrich and Bernard Tabakin
Starring Dan Duryea as MIKE CALLAHAN
Also starring Gene Lockhart, Patric Knowles, Marian Carr, Reginald Denny, Nigel Bruce, Keye Luke
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- May 26, 2023
The Bottom Line: Dan Duryea resplendent in his white suit as an Irish ex-pat PI in Singapore in a fine little B-Noir from 1955, directed by Robert Aldrich. Plus… hand grenades!
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.